Technically the Port of London consists of all the tidal portion of the River Thames from Margate on the south coast, and Clacton-on-Sea on the north, through to Teddington, a total of around 95 miles (150km). The port is governed by the Port of London Authority.
The Port of London was central to the economy of London from Saxon times. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was the busiest port in the World, with wharves extending continuously along the Thames for 11 miles, and over 1,500 cranes handling 60,000 ships per year. In World War II it was a prime target for the Luftwaffe during The Blitz.
With the use of larger ships and containerization, the importance of the port declined throughout the second half of the 20th century. However it remains one of the three largest in the United Kingdom after those at Tilbury and Felixstowe (the order changes from time to time).
The Port currently handles 50 million tonnes of cargo each year and 12,500 commercial ships, which use 73 operational wharves. This represents around 10% of the UK commercial shipping trade, and contributes over 35,000 jobs and 8.5 billion pounds to the UK's economy.
Much of the disused land of the London Docklands is in the process of being developed for housing and as a second commercial centre for London. 29 wharves have been protected from development to ensure they are retained for commercial shipping.